By Peter J. Smith

WATERTOWN, New York, October 28, 2009 ( – In the fierce three way battle for representation of the 23rd New York congressional district, each candidate knows “it ain't over 'til it's over,” but two new polls suggest that Conservative Party upstart Doug Hoffman might have taken the lead.

Two polls commissioned by the conservative Club for Growth and Minuteman PAC suggest Hoffman has taken the lead over Democrat Bill Owens and Republican Dede Scozzafava in the contest for a district that has voted GOP since the Civil War. Despite Republican Scozzafava's extreme liberal views – pro-abortion, pro-gay “marriage,” and pro-tax – local GOP party leaders elected her as their candidate to replace Rep. John McHughes, who won the district handily nine times before retiring in September to become Secretary of the Army.

The poll from the Club for Growth shows Hoffman in the lead with 31 percent, Democrat Bill Owens following at 27 percent, and Scozzafava last at 20 percent. Twenty-two percent are undecided. The poll sampled 300 likely voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.66 percent.

Neighborhood Research poll – commissioned by Minuteman PAC – shows Hoffman taking the lead with 34.1 percent, Democrat Bill Owens close behind at 29.2 percent, and Scozzafava dwindling to 13.9 percent. Twenty-three percent are undecided. The poll sampled 366 likely voters and has a plus or minus 4.8 percent margin of error.

Both polls were taken in the aftermath of critical endorsements for Hoffman: Sarah Palin's high-profile endorsement, FreedomWorks founder Dick Armey's endorsement, and now Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, who is believed to be a presidential hopeful for 2012.

Hoffman now has 28 endorsements that include pro-life and pro-family conservatives such as former Sen. Rick Santorum, Fred Thompson, Dr. James Dobson, and Sen. Jim DeMint, as well as groups such as NY Right to Life, National Organization for Marriage, Susan B. Anthony List, Concerned Women for America, and others.

Democratic strategists have now shifted their guns away from Scozzafava and her imploding campaign toward Hoffman. The move appears to indicate that the Owens campaign now views Hoffman's surging Conservative campaign as the primary threat. 
While many have viewed the contentious battle for the 23rd NY as a battle for the soul of the Republican party, the race could also have big implications for the leadership of the US conservative movement itself: a contest being waged between former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich – both considered possible candidates for the 2012 Presidential Elections.

Gingrich has endorsed, and continues to stand by his endorsement, of Scozzafava, despite her avowal of pro-abortion and pro-same-sex “marriage” policies and her history as a tax-raising politician in Albany. Those positions taken together have alienated both social and economic conservatives, who are estimated to count for approximately half of the electorate in the 23rd NY.

Nevertheless, Gingrich has defended the endorsement as a pragmatic decision, necessary to building a Republican coalition that will implement conservative ideas once it regains power. He has said that Scozzafava is more electable and that he doubts conservatives “splitting in the special election is a smart idea.”

“My bias is to be for the nominee of the local party,” Gingrich told “Tea Party” activist Lisa Miller. “I don't second guess the local party.”

However, the Washington Independent reports that Gingrich – who recently announced on C-SPAN that he was considering running for President in 2012 – has inflamed conservative passions against him, jeopardizing his status in the movement. Conservatives have blamed compromising on conservative values and ideas as partly responsible for recent GOP losses.

Depending on how the election turns out Sarah Palin may stand to gain the mantle of the Conservative movement. Palin, who made clear earlier this year that her political action committee SarahPAC would support conservatives of any party, Republican or Democrat, urged her supporters via Facebook to support Hoffman, saying that his insurgent Conservative candidacy tells establishment GOP leaders “no more politics as usual.”

In a single day, the Palin endorsement poured $116,000 into the Hoffman war-chest and heightened his public profile.

Pro-life advocates are canvassing the district in favor of Hoffman and are acting as “boots on the ground” against ACORN activists. ACORN is considered a major supporter of Scozzafava's campaign.

The Susan B. Anthony List, which endorsed Hoffman, reports that SBA has recruited over 300 pro-life volunteers to actively assist in the Hoffman campaign. The group counts 102 volunteers so far in charge of distributing yard signs, 95 volunteers in charge of literature distribution at their local churches, and 108 volunteers who will work at polling stations on Election Day. The pro-life group also has 40 homeschoolers and their parents volunteering to man the polls.

“The sense of hope is growing organically in this election,” said SBA President Marjorie Dannenfelser in an e-mail to supporters. “We are doing two things here – First, we are giving these folks a choice – someone who will represent their values. And second, we are sending a clear signal that there has to be a line the GOP won't cross when it comes to respecting our values.”

To learn more about the Susan B. Anthony List's involvement in the Doug Hoffman campaign click here.

See related coverage by

Conservative Rebellion Explodes in New York over Extreme Liberal GOP Candidate


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